On Beacon Hill: A Green Christmas for legal marijuana advocates

From State House News Service

ON THE AGENDA

  • Legal marijuana rolls up to State House
  • Baker eyes deeper partnership after Israel trip
  • Healey wants answers from Tillerson
  • 900 buyouts spare state employee layoffs

TOP OF THE HILL

For legal marijuana advocates, it’s a Green Christmas

BOSTON — A decade ago, a Massachusetts State Police cruiser, lights on, pulling up onto the sidewalk at a cannabis celebration might have been cause for alarm among attendees.

Last Thursday, the first day of marijuana legalization under a ballot law, the brief presence of a police vehicle — which was turning around to head down Beacon Street — didn’t cause a stir among activists showing off their green product for the news media outside the State House.

Scituate resident Keith Saunders, a member of the board of directors of the pro-marijuana-legalization NORML, held out a jar that he said contained just under an ounce of marijuana that was grown and gifted to him by a patient. Saunders told reporters he was giving people marijuana from his jar as they asked for it.

The ballot law permits people 21 and over to carry up to an ounce of marijuana in public and gift up to an ounce. It allows individuals to grow up to six plants, limiting it to 12 per household, and to possess up to 10 ounces of cannabis at home. A regulatory regime for retail sale of the drug is not yet established, and unregulated sales remain illegal. But the legal flow of marijuana has begun.

Keith Saunders holds a jar of what he said was nearly an ounce of newly legalized marijuana outside the State House Dec. 15.

Andy Metzger / State House News Service

Keith Saunders holds a jar of what he said was nearly an ounce of newly legalized marijuana outside the State House Dec. 15.

For Saunders, holding what he said was about a two-month supply of pot on a Beacon Hill sidewalk felt natural.

On Beacon Hill: Baker’s budget ax grinds DeLeo’s gears

From State House News Service

ON THE AGENDA

  • Baker’s $98 million move rankles State House leaders
  • Keefe, area legislators denounce governor’s broad budget cuts
  • Legal marijuana on tap this week as votes are ready for certification
  • McGovern gets down to business in Boston
  • DeLeo signs off on new Red Sox ace Chris Sale

Gov. Charlie Baker last week unilaterally slashed $98 million from the state budget to address flagging revenues.

Antonio Caban / State House News Service

Gov. Charlie Baker last week unilaterally slashed $98 million from the state budget to address flagging revenues.

TOP OF THE HILL

Baker’s budget ax grinds DeLeo’s gears

House Speaker Robert DeLeo and his band of not-so-merry Democrats tiptoed out on a limb last week made of brittle budget projections and the hopes of a snowless, crimeless, healthy winter full of Main Street shopping and large bonus checks.

Underneath, Gov. Charlie Baker sat with his calculator banking on the branch to crack.

Baker warmed an otherwise mild political off-season last Tuesday when he announced he would use his executive authority to trim $98 million from the state’s $39.25 billion state budget, a rather modest sum until lawmakers began to see where he applied his X-Acto knife.

From the governor’s perch, he decided he had seen enough of yo-yoing revenue reports — including a disappointing November — that had tax collections up one month and down the next. Rather than wait to see what December or January brings, he started paring back spending immediately.

On Beacon Hill: Petty among mayors to call for extending Prevention and Wellness Trust Fund; Pike transition expected to take a toll

From State House News Service

ON THE AGENDA

  • Petty, hundreds of state leaders call to extend Mosaic-linked health fund
  • Officials scramble as Pike tolling transition begins, without website
  • Mass. Taxpayers Foundation sees red in recreational pot revenue projections
  • Do charter schools fail students with disabilities? Question 2 debate rages

TOP OF THE HILL

Petty among nine mayors leading call to extend state health fund that was connected to Mosaic Cultural Complex

Worcester’s Joseph M. Petty is among the mayors of nine Massachusetts cities leading more than 200 civic and health officials, including state Sen. Harriette M. Chandler, who urged lawmakers last week to reauthorize a state trust fund aimed at preventing chronic health conditions like diabetes, asthma and hypertension.

Mayor Petty

Topix.com

Mayor Petty

The Prevention and Wellness Trust Fund was established as part of a 2012 health care cost containment law, and its funding is slated to expire in June 2017. That’s months away, but work on the fiscal 2018 budget will be under way throughout the fall, leading up to the release of Gov. Charlie Baker’s budget proposal in January.

The original funding, $60 million over four years, came from an assessment on health insurers and large hospital systems.

“This program is changing the way we think about wellness. We need to realize that health is not simply the absence of illness,” Petty told the Sun in an email late Friday. “This program is about taking healthcare out of the traditional clinical setting and changing behavior patterns in our most vulnerable populations. Through the work of our community partners we are trying to care for the well-being of the entire person not just addressing individual symptoms as they arise.”

In a letter delivered to legislative leaders Oct. 27, the representatives of municipalities, health associations, nonprofits and other organizations described the fund as an “essential complement to ongoing health care transformation efforts,” and say those efforts cannot be successful without focusing on the underlying causes of poor health.

On Beacon Hill: DeLeo backs charter schools, Rosenberg’s fired up for legal pot, but what do voters think?

From State House News Service

ON THE AGENDA

  • DeLeo backs charter schools expansion, Rosenberg goes for legal pot
  • Chart: What are likely voters thinking on all four ballot questions?
  • Baker convenes working group on automated cars, growing industry
  • Administration works $294M budget gap; says courts, higher ed to be spared
  • Polito: Layoffs could be part of belt-tightening strategy

Senate President Stanley M. Rosenberg and House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo

Sam Doran (SHNS / file photo)

Senate President Stanley M. Rosenberg and House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo

TOP OF THE HILL

DeLeo: Charter schools expansion ‘best for students’

The ballot question seeking to expand access to charter schools gained a potentially powerful backer last week in House Speaker Robert DeLeo, who has long expressed sympathy with students and families waiting for openings in charter schools.

In an appearance on WCVB’s “On The Record” set to air today [Oct. 23], the Winthrop Democrat said, “I decided to do what I feel is best for students, whatever the political ramifications may be. I think, again, it’s the right thing to do.”

Question 2 would allow for up to 12 additional charter schools regardless of existing statutory caps.

WCVB released a clip of the interview Thursday, Oct. 20, and the Yes on 2 campaign quickly circulated a link to the clip with a campaign spokeswoman saying they were honored to have DeLeo as part of their “bipartisan coalition.” A source close to DeLeo confirmed he plans to vote for Question 2.

On Beacon Hill: ‘Incredibly disappointed’ Baker maintains sideline stance on Trump vs. Clinton [plus video]

From State House News Service

ON THE AGENDA

  • Despite Warren’s prodding, Trump’s antics, Baker stands firm on presidential vote
  • Supporters rally to fend off transgender ‘bathroom bill’ repeal attempt
  • Declining health has imprisoned DiMasi lined up for early release
  • Precipitation finally rains on persistent drought’s parade

TOP OF THE HILL

‘Incredibly disappointed’ Baker maintains sideline stance on Trump vs. Clinton

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker turned his back a long time ago on Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, but even amid the latest scandal over Trump’s comments about women, the governor would not take sides between Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Baker, back from a week-long vacation in Ireland, faced a new round of questions Thursday about the GOP standard-bearer in the wake of released recordings of Trump discussing sexual advances toward women and accusations of harassment.

Baker has repeatedly said he would not vote for Trump or Clinton, and on Thursday when asked whether Trump or Clinton would be better for the country, Baker, a Republican, said he continues to be “incredibly disappointed” in both candidates.


Watch: Baker on not voting for Trump, Warren’s calls and more


On Beacon Hill: Shrewsbury’s Beaton ratchets up drought vigilance

From State House News Service

ON THE AGENDA

  • Water conservation ‘more important than ever,’ state environment chief says
  • Racial disparities in marijuana arrests persist, per ACLU report
  • Ciao Bella, Grove Street businesses hit with $30K in fines
  • State has deer population in crosshairs

TOP OF THE HILL

Water conservation ‘more important than ever,’ state environmental chief says

After seven straight months of below-average rainfall, all outdoor water use should be banned in all parts of Massachusetts except for Berkshire County and Cape Cod and the Islands, the state Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs announced last week.

Drought Management Task Force members -- co-chair and Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs' assistant director of water policy, Vandana Rao, left; Energy and Environmental Secretary Matthew Beaton, center; and Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Martin Suuberg -- met Thursday and received an update on drought conditions from various state and federal agencies.

Antonio Caban / State House News Service

Matthew Beaton, center

Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew A. Beaton of Shrewsbury elevated the western region of the state from a drought advisory to a drought watch on Friday, and elevated the Connecticut River Valley from a drought watch to a drought warning, following the recent recommendation of the state’s Drought Management Task Force.

“Water reservoirs, groundwater, streamflow, and soil moisture levels continue to decline, severely impacting the commonwealth’s riverine habitats and fisheries, agricultural sector, and elevating the risk of fire,” Beaton said in a statement. “Now more important than ever, we all must administer best water conservation practices to avoid additional stress on our drinking water sources and other water dependent habitats.”

With each heightened classification, the state ramps up its messaging around water conservation, a stronger push for water-use restrictions, and more intensified monitoring. Water suppliers in regions under a drought warning are urged ban all outdoor water use, and those under a drought watch should limit outdoor water use to handheld watering after 5 p.m. or before 9 a.m., according to the task force.

Drought conditions as of Oct. 1

Courtesy Executive Office of Environmental and Energy Affais

Drought conditions as of Oct. 1

The state has been under its own official drought declaration since July 1. More than 98 percent of the state is experiencing a “moderate” drought or worse, and the remaining bit of the state, near North Adams, is “abnormally dry,” according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

With Beaton’s latest drought declaration, the drought classifications now are:

  • Central Mass. — Drought Warning
  • Western Mass. — Drought Watch
  • Connecticut River Valley — Drought Warning
  • Northeast Mass. — Drought Warning
  • Southeastern Mass. — Drought Warning
  • Cape Cod and the Islands — Drought Watch

— Colin A. Young


Blacks 3 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession, says report from Question 4-backing ACLU

Eight years after Massachusetts voted to decriminalize the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, racial disparities in arrests for marijuana possession have continued, a report from the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts found, and they disproportionately affect African-Americans.

Drought Management Task Force members -- co-chair and Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs' assistant director of water policy, Vandana Rao, left; Energy and Environmental Secretary Matthew Beaton, center; and Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Martin Suuberg -- met Thursday and received an update on drought conditions from various state and federal agencies.

On Beacon Hill: Beaton ‘saddened’ by retribution charges as State House inquiry lingers

From State House News Service

ON THE AGENDA

  • Beaton highlights good work of thousands amid retribution claims under his watch
  • DCR deputy tied to throwing private party with public resources resigns
  • Video: Danish royals bring out red carpet, renewable energy talk at State House
  • State health czar trumpets monitoring system to thwart opioid abuse
  • Mary Keefe among reps earning a ‘perfect’ environmental score from PAC

TOP OF THE HILL

Beaton: Retribution charge overshadows work of thousands

Top Baker administration officials have said they are pushing for a swift investigation into claims of political retribution within the Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, but more than a week has passed since Gov. Charlie Baker said he wanted results “as soon as possible.”

Drought Management Task Force members -- co-chair and Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs' assistant director of water policy, Vandana Rao, left; Energy and Environmental Secretary Matthew Beaton, center; and Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Martin Suuberg -- met Thursday and received an update on drought conditions from various state and federal agencies.

Antonio Caban / State House News Service

Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton, center, finds his office tangled in controversy.

Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew A. Beaton of Shrewsbury, a Worcester-area state representative from 2011 to 2015, told State House News Service Friday, Sept. 30, he was saddened that the allegations might overshadow the work done in his secretariat, known as EEA, which oversees parks, environmental permitting and utilities regulation.

“I look at this generally and it saddens me, because I know the great work that thousands and thousands of amazing employees inside of EEA do day-in and day-out, and to see their great work get overshadowed by something like this – it breaks my heart to see,” Beaton said outside an offshore wind event at the InterContinental Boston hotel.

On Beacon Hill: Retribution allegations put heat on Baker administration

From State House News Service

ON THE AGENDA

  • Aide: Baker knew about alleged retribution earlier than he first said
  • Democrat leaders mulling options amid ‘troubling pattern’
  • Video: Polito joins governor to honor Bay State police for valor, bravery
  • Baker considers ‘status quo’ as charter school expansion hangs in balance
  • Warren-backed sheriff lays out bid for top state Dem post

TOP OF THE HILL

Aide: Baker knew of alleged retribution in June, not September

Gov. Charlie Baker told reporters on Thursday that he learned about an alleged retribution case within the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs about two weeks ago, but an aide later said the governor misspoke about the timeline.

“We were made aware of the allegations about 10 days ago and told EEA they needed to conduct an investigation with oversight and input from our legal office,” Baker said Sept. 22. “And the allegations are extremely troubling and we want to see what comes out of that investigation.”

The retaliation claim involves a staffer, Cynthia Lewis, who reportedly said she faced harassment and was told she would be transferred to a different office after her fiance, J.D. Parker O’Grady, a Democrat, launched a Senate campaign against Republican incumbent Sen. Donald Humason Jr. of Westfield.

According to a cease and desist letter quoted by the Boston Herald, which first reported the allegations, personnel officer Jared Valanzola, himself a failed Republican candidate for the House, suggested Lewis, who worked for the chief of environmental police, “break off her engagement” with Parker O’Grady.


Watch: Baker reacts to ‘unbelievably disturbing’ allegations


On Beacon Hill: Polito warns local officials of legal marijuana impact on state aid

From State House News Service

ON THE AGENDA

  • Polito: Legal marijuana puts local aid in the balance
  • Videos: State education boss faces icy reception on school spending
  • Baker says Obama marine monument hurts fishermen
  • Tompkins, Suffolk sheriff, angles for state Dem leadership

TOP OF THE HILL

Polito warns local officials of legal marijuana impact on state aid

State funding for schools and local aid could take a hit if voters approve a marijuana legalization ballot question in November, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said last week as she implored local officials to join the opposition to Question 4.

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito

State House News Service / file

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito

After hearing concerns from local officials who comprise the Local Government Advisory Commission, Polito said municipal government officials and the Massachusetts Municipal Association can help the opposition because “this association reaches far and wide.”

“The message today as we all leave here is to do our homework in terms of educating your friends, your neighbors, your coworkers, your constituency groups, about what this question would mean for Massachusetts and why we need to work in an election when there is a higher turnout of voters to educate and inform the voters as to why they should vote no on Question 4,” she said.

Drought Management Task Force members -- co-chair and Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs' assistant director of water policy, Vandana Rao, left; Energy and Environmental Secretary Matthew Beaton, center; and Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Martin Suuberg -- met Thursday and received an update on drought conditions from various state and federal agencies.

On Beacon Hill: Officials tighten Worcester, area water restrictions as drought envelops state

From State House News Service

ON THE AGENDA

  • As drought widens, Worcester water ban gets tighter
  • Videos: State, city and weather officials talk next steps vs. drought
  • Discovery of trackside body delays Worcester-bound train
  • Tax amnesty program leads to $137M state windfall
  • Worcester Fire’s Safe Cooking Program among federal grant recipients

TOP OF THE HILL

Officials tighten Worcester, area water restrictions as drought envelops state

Restaurants in Worcester and Holden can no longer serve tap water to diners unless specifically asked to do so, a result of those Central Massachusetts communities ratcheting up water-use restrictions in the face of a deepening drought.

The Worcester Department of Public Works and Parks moved the city to a “Stage 3 Drought Emergency” on Thursday, and implemented additional water-use restrictions “in order to assure the long-term availability of water to meet the critical health, safety and economic needs of the city,” DPW&P Commissioner Paul J. Moosey wrote to City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr.

The reservoir system that Worcester, Holden, Paxton and parts of West Boylston rely on for drinking water was 55.1 percent full as of Sept. 1, Moosey wrote. The Sept. 1 average is 81.7 percent full.

Drought Management Task Force members -- co-chair and Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs' assistant director of water policy, Vandana Rao, left; Energy and Environmental Secretary Matthew Beaton, center; and Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Martin Suuberg -- met Thursday and received an update on drought conditions from various state and federal agencies.

Antonio Caban / State House News Service

Drought Management Task Force members — co-chair and Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs’ assistant director of water policy, Vandana Rao, left; Energy and Environmental Secretary Matthew Beaton, center; and Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Martin Suuberg — met Thursday and received an update on drought conditions from various state and federal agencies.

Residents in those communities are also banned from all outdoor watering, except for using a watering can to water plants by hand, and are prohibited from using water to wash cars, clean driveways, decks, sidewalks or filling swimming pools, the city said.